2015.08.22: Refinement

Storm's behavior has settled out a lot over the last couple months. I was away in June, and so Kirsten took care of Storm herself. It was a horrible day for a lesson, with pouring rain all day. Kristie helped out, and brought him into the barn. He decided he couldn't cope with things, and tried to have a meltdown. I don't know if its the rain on the roof, or what, but he doesn't really care for the barn in general, and so when anything is out of the ordinary, he's uncomfortable. Kirsten very calmly allowed him to sort it out himself. He was very upset about this, and wasn't happy that she wasn't doing something for him. He struggled seeking comfort, but couldn't figure out where to find it. He went into his stall, out of his stall into the barn aisle again, and back and forth repeatedly until finally towards the end of the hour he began to figure out that he just needed to be calm himself. Nobody was going to do it for him. I was pleased that it "wasn't me" that was contributing to his behavior, he displayed the anxious behavior without me there, so that at least let me know that the issues that he has aren't all on me. Kirsten's guidance to let him sort things out more on his own was helpful. He turned a corner himself after that point.
July brought heat and and we attempted to return to the task of the decater lunging method. We left off working him at the canter, but at this point he wasn't interested in cantering anymore. I was still on edge not completely trusting that he was going to be calm, and so Kirsten and I discussed his changes and where he was really at, and where I really needed to be in order for both of us to make progress. She changed the technique on us and had us working on moving together with the unseen level of communication that happens when there is a strong connection and an awareness of body. I was struggling hard with the concept and not sure exactly where and how to be. I felt like I was all thumbs, and was struggling to have clear body communication without using the 'aids' of the rope and whip, but yet still holding them in the appropriate manner. It was an almost to tears lesson, which I suppose are the biggest breakthroughs anyway.
Afterwards, I realized that I knew how to do the "technique" when leading him walking at his head with a loose rope. I couldn't make the jump to being behind his shoulder in a riding position all the while holding the rope and the whip (but not holding too tight and not using the whip too much). So we practiced a little without all the trappings. I simply kept him in the halter, and changed my position to the riding location. I didn't use a whip, or have the lunge line set up to support his balance. I was only focusing on the body movements that we needed to have to be in partnership and move together as a team from suggestions of body language. It worked much better, and we were both a lot more focused and calm from it.
August brought warm weather, but the arena was cleared of jumps, so we took the opportunity to play with everyone down there since we had so much space. Othello's lesson was earlier in the morning, and so we worked with the long reins again helping him to find another level of support. Kirsten altered the technique a bit more to help him find even more balance by pulling his hindquarters into the circle to abduct his inside hind leg to help straighten his spine. The results were pretty clear, but it took really careful management of the long lines to accomplish the task. She showed me and talked through things and then I took the reins. He and I got a little confused, and the reins got tight, so he took off. Kirsten took him back and reorganized him again, and then he and I went back to work. I wasn't able to get the clear results that she had, but we were both fumbling through it together. Once we changed direction, things got a lot easier because I didn't have to worry about having him step to the inside due to where his balance was on the circle.
The best part was that we made the trek to the arena with only minimal worry. He was concerned walking past the trailer parked in the field, and looked sideways at the jumps, but when he saw Othello and our friends down in the arena, he relaxed. He was so quiet that I was able to easily put the bridle on and get him all set up to work, then he just hung out next to me while Othello finished up. That was a huge accomplishment considering he's only been to the arena to work maybe three times the entire time he's been at the farm.
Kristie came over and babysat us the next week so we could do some more work in the arena again, and he did very well, even as distracted as I was having a lovely conversation. It is so nice when the arena is clear to be able to work where ever you want, and yet I still use the front corner where it is shady! We've made progress, now we will see where we can take this.
Next Page: 2015.11.22: Long Time Coming